Southend-on-Sea, South London 1911 - 1915
They moved around a bit. When Stanley, as my father preferred to be called, was born in 1906 they were living at 19a Lytcott Grove, Dulwich. We are still near both the Mollett and the Magee heartlands, but then when Roland was born they are found in Southend-on-Sea at 30 Surbiton Road - shown at right - a perfectly ordinary English semi-detached house. Why did they move to Southend? I am still unclear as to how long a person suffers with TB. Did Gerald already know, in 1911, that he had TB, and they therefore moved to Southend - on the River Thames estuary, hoping that the ‘sea air’ would improve his condition? Maybe cracks were beginning to appear in the relationship and the move was an attempt to improve things. Did Maud find motherhood and the daily grind of maintaining an Edwardian household on a small income to be just not her thing? There do not seem to be any other Molletts in Southend, but there are Magees, and it is possible that some of them were relatives. Maybe life was cheaper in Southend. (By 1911 they were able to afford one servant). Maybe the Molletts’ disapproval was becoming just too much. But then I am assuming disapproval. As always there are a multitude of possibilities, not all of them signifying doom and gloom. Maybe Gerald just got a job that was in Southend.
However, we then come to the strongest evidence that something was seriously amiss. On March 22, 1913 Maud is delivered of a baby - Violet - at 386 Brockley Road, Lewisham - ironically, coincidentally, or because it was a family home? - Brockley Road was where Maud herself was born. And then again on October 19 the following year, she has a baby boy - Harry. Both birth certificates have Gerald as the father. Both births were registered by the mother - Harry’s not until Christmas Eve, which is well out of the legal time frame allowed for birth registration.
Why are we suspicious? There are several reasons. The most trivial is the names - somehow qualitatively different from the earlier three - no middle names for a start. Secondly the addresses. Both of these places are nearer to Maude’s family stomping ground than the Molletts, and a long way from Southend. On Harry’s birth certificate, Gerald’s occupation is given as accountant (telegraph company) - and we do think that this is what he did in Southend. Thirdly, my father never, ever, ever mentioned their names. Surely, even if they had died, he would have mentioned that he had also had another brother and sister?
The strongest evidence, however, is that on November 30, 1915, just over a year after Harry’s birth, Gerald made a will from which his wife and these two children are notably absent. The first three children are specifically named as the heirs, and his address is given as 7 Belvoir Rd., Dulwich - the Mollett family home. His brothers are executors and sisters are witnesses. When we first came across the will we assumed that Maud was dead, and we did not know about Violet and Harry - neither of whom seem to have died in infancy. And then my brother told us that they divorced. Not so - or at least we have found no record of this so far and Maud was still calling herself Maude Beatrice Mollett when she died. So we can only assume that Maud had an affair, or affairs - who knows with whom - became pregnant and tried to pass the children off as Gerald’s - at least to the outside world. It seems likely, however, that Gerald knew or found out that they were not his and the two had separated with Gerald going back home to mum (who was still alive). The discovery of Violet and Harry’s births is comparatively recent, and we obviously have much more research to do to find out what happened to them.
But sadly for Maud (and Gerald too) it looks as if the marriage was over. On New Year’s Eve 1917 Gerald finally succumbed to his TB in a sanatorium far away in Somerset. Was she there I wonder? Did she know? Did somebody tell her? Did she care? She certainly kept the surname Mollett until he died. I find it so distressing not to know these things and with nobody left alive who would know.
I guess the probably sad story of this marriage shows that the course of true love never did run smooth - or that you should never marry someone with a totally different background to your own. Maybe Gerald just couldn’t follow through on such a huge act of rebellion as to marry someone who was beyond the pale. Maybe she couldn’t cope with the reality of children and domesticity. Or maybe there are more romantic reasons. Maybe Gerald left so as not to infect her, maybe they loved each other still. Maybe Violet and Harry are the last remnants of a grand passion, and that perhaps, sadly they did die. We can only imagine.
The rest is silence. Or it was, until a recent communication from the wife of Violet’s son. Indeed Violet did not die, and neither did Harry, who, it seems ended up in South Africa. Alas my new correspondent also does not know much more, but it is a new lead and we shall follow it. Watch this space.